As I have previously stated, I probably would not be practicing law if I did not practice elder care law. Eighteen years ago, once I started to explore this fascinating, challenging area of practice, I was hooked. Practicing in this evolving area of law provides a high level of satisfaction in knowing we make a positive difference in the lives of our clients and their families. However, as we deal with the day to day work, we occasionally lose focus on our mission – enhancing the lives of those elders we represent. Fortunately, we have regular client interactions which help bring our mission back into clear focus. Three recent examples are:
- A week prior to Thanksgiving, I met with a client whose husband was in a local nursing home for a rehabilitation stay following a fall resulting in hospitalization. The wife communicated that her husband wanted to come home to spend Thanksgiving Day with his family, and would be devastated if he was unable to do so for health reasons. The nursing home originally informed our client that her husband would lose his Medicare coverage for the rehabilitation stay if he went home for the day because it would be evidence that he no longer was in need of skilled nursing care. With the help of our office to advocate for the family, our client was able to go home on Thanksgiving Day to spend it with family, and returned to the SNF under a Medicare covered stay.
- Husband and wife clients both needed ongoing services and support due to dementia and a recent stroke. When we first met with the family, the husband was in a subacute rehabilitation setting, while his wife was temporarily living in a dementia assisted living community. The couple of over sixty years dreamed of continuing to live together in the same room in a long-term care setting, but the family was struggling to find the proper care setting and determining how to pay for care since funds were limited. Our care coordinator was able to secure proper housing for the couple in the same room and helped negotiate the financial arrangements in order for our clients to remain together on a long-term basis.
- I met with a husband who advised me he believed he needed to start making arrangements for placement of his wife in a nursing home. The burden of caring for his wife was becoming too much for him to handle from both a physical and emotional perspective. However, he was having a great deal of anguish in considering moving his wife of over 45 years out of the home into a safe setting. I explained to the husband that this is not supposed to be an easy decision. If you did not have second thoughts regarding your decision, something was wrong. Our care coordinator helped facilitate proper placement, making the decision easier for both spouses and the entire family.
In all three cases, health care advocacy is what made for successful outcomes. Despite their concerns about saving money, families tell us their primary goal is to promote the health, safety, and well-being of their loved one, at home, in an assisted living, or in a nursing home.
We currently have five full time elder care coordinators (ECC). We assign an ECC to help each of our client-families with their long-term care concerns. The ECC conducts a care assessment in the client’s home to identify care-related problems and assist in solving them, which might include arranging in-home help or other services or coordinating with health care and long-term care providers. When our ECCs visit clients, the assisted livings or
nursing homes know that we are in the same business: helping families take care of someone’s mother, father, spouse, or other loved one. However, when necessary, our ECCs advocate and intervene on behalf of a client who is not getting proper care.
The future of elder care law lies with transforming this practice area from Medicaid asset-focused planning to an integrated care management model that elevates the elder client’s quality of life and care above all other aims of the planning process.
Advocating for quality care is at the heart of what we do. This is why I practice elder care law.